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Monday, August 30, 2021

The Names of God - Alpha and Omega

We have covered quite a few names for God.  In this series, we have studied 12 and today we will look at one more.  If we were to look at every name or title for God, we could go on for years.  One website I found list 950 names for God from the Bible.[i]

There is only One God, in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  But because God is so important and His character is infinite and people have experienced Him in so many ways, we know God by many, many names.  Don’t ever forget, though, that every name refers to the One True and Living God revealed in Scripture from the very first verse of Genesis at the beginning of the Bible to the last verse of Revelation at the end.  All of Scripture is the story of the One God who created us and saved us, whom we will worship for all eternity.

Let us read together a passage that reveals one more important name for God.

Revelation 1:7-8
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
    And everyone will see him—
    even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
    will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Alpha and Omega
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet.  The very first letter is Alpha.  The word alphabet we use to describe our own ABCs, actually comes from the first letter of the Greek alphabet—Alpha—and the second letter—Beta.  These two words or letters are combined to give us Alpha-Bet to designate our 26 letters—A-Z.  The Greek alphabet only has 24 letters, the first is Alpha and the last is Omega.

You may realize doctors and scientists are using the Greek alphabet to name variants of the COVID-19 virus.  The variant all over the news right now is the Delta variant.  Delta is the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet, which indicates it is the 4th variant of this virus.  There was the original COVID-19 out of Wuhan, China.  Then there was Alpha (the first variant) out of the UK.  Beta came from South Africa.  Then Gama was first identified in Brazil. 

The Delta Variant is a far more infectious and faster growing variant than the others.  That is why it Delta is causing more sickness and spreading more rapidly.  But if Delta is the 4th letter in the Greek alphabet, are there more variants coming? 

According to Alvin Powel of the Harvard Gazette, a publication of Harvard Medical School, “Variants have continued to develop and spread since the emergence of delta. The World Health Organization has designated variants Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda “variants of interest” and is tracking 13 additional variants that originated in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia, and other nations.”[ii] 

It would seem, we are going to be living with COVID-19 for a while.  The verdict is still out on how well we will live with COVID.  Will future variations of this virus be less lethal?  Will the human immune system evolve to be better equipped to handle this illness?  Or will a future version of COVID be more deadly than anything we have seen so far? 

I wish we knew the answers to these questions, but human understanding is limited.  All we know is what we know and all we can do is do our best.  Thankfully, we have some treatments that help people heal and we have vaccines that—after over 350 million vaccinations in America—has proven itself to be safe and effective.  Nothing is perfect, but you are more likely to be struck by lightning than have a life-threatening reaction to the COVID vaccination.  And the vaccines are over 80% effective in warding off COVID or greatly reducing the severity of the illness.  I think the hope is that if enough people are vaccinated, we can slowdown the spread and mutation of the virus so that future variants won’t have a chance to take hold and get out of control.  If we can do that, then maybe the virus will become something like a common cold.

But I’m not here to talk about COVID.  My purpose is to talk about God.  And in Revelation 1:8 the Lord God says He is the “Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the end”.  God is the first and last and everything in between.  While we forget what happened yesterday and we don’t know what might happen tomorrow, God knows it all perfectly.  We have no control over what tomorrow brings, but God is in control of it all.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is and always was and is still yet to come.

God Always Was…
Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God existed before the world was created.  Before there was a thing called earth or heaven, before there was light or darkness, before there was time, God was.  And though He needed nothing, out of love God created a beautiful planet with mountains and oceans and plants and animals and people.  And God saw that it was very good. 

Unfortunately, people didn’t love God the way He loves us.  We rebelled and tried to make life all about us and what we wanted.  Even though a loving relationship with God is all we needed to be truly happy and fulfilled, we turned our backs on God and chased our own selfish dreams.  But God didn’t turn His back on us.  From the very beginning, God has been working to save us from ourselves.  And throughout the pages of the Bible, we can clearly see God working to bring us back to Him.

  • God called Noah and his family to enter the ark and leave behind a world that had become overwhelmed by evil and to make a fresh start in a new world.[iii] 
  • God called Abraham to leave his country and go to a new land where God would make Abraham the father of a great nation and a blessing to all the families of the earth.[iv]
  • God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery into the Promised Land to be a holy nation, dedicated to God.[v]
  • And the greatest example of all is Jesus Christ.  Jesus called people to accept the relationship God offers them. 

Before the world began, God already knew you and knew you would be sitting here in this sanctuary right now, with all your personal concerns swirling around in your head—fears, anxieties, hopes, dreams, disappointments.  God already knew about all the things that would be overwhelming us today.  We might feel overwhelmed, but He is not.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  God always was and…

God Is…
“Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)

I don’t know what you were thinking when you decided to come to church today.  I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but I know what Jesus is doing right now.  This Scripture tells me Jesus, the one who was with God in the beginning and who is God, the one who healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, the one who made the deaf to hear and the lame to walk, the one who never sinned, but was crucified to atone for our sins, Jesus is pleading to God on your behalf right this very moment.

God is.  God is right this moment, extending His grace and forgiveness to you.  Right this very moment, God is ready to welcome all who sincerely repent and trust Jesus as Lord.  Right now, God is ready to grant you the gift of eternal life with Him where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or death, where every tear shall be wiped away and every hurt will be healed.  God is here, right now.  Won’t you turn to Him while there is still time?  I sincerely hope you will, because…

God is Still to Come…
“Yes, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20)
Jesus promised us He would come again

After Jesus rose from the tomb, he spent 40 days with his disciples and then he ascended to Heaven where he sits at the right hand of God in the place of highest honor, pleading for you.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He promised he would return.  (See John 14:3)  Two white robed, angelic figures confirmed Jesus promised return to the Disciples in Acts 1:11. “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Some critics and skeptics scoff that Jesus hasn’t “returned in the clouds” in nearly 2,000 years.  I can assure you of this, you will meet Jesus face to face in your lifetime.  Either Jesus will come in the clouds for the whole world all at once or Jesus will come for you personally when you take your last breath.

Revelation 1:7 tells us, “Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him.”

Everyone will face Jesus one day.  Will you rejoice to see Jesus, or will you mourn?  Will you be overwhelmed by love or fear and dread?  Will you spend eternity in paradise, rejoicing with your loved ones and celebrating with a feast or will you spend eternity suffering the tortuous separation from God, the Source of Life, in what the Bible variously describes as “the outer darkness”, the lake of fire, the second death, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teethe?  It is the place most commonly known as Hell.


God is still to come and whether that is an incredible good thing or and incredibly bad thing depends upon the choice you make today.


For God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.

Choose to Follow Jesus as Lord Today
I hope you will choose today, right now, to follow Jesus as Lord.  Then you won't have to dread the day Jesus comes in the clouds.  He will be your Lord and you will be forgiven and welcome into God's perfect presence where you will live in paradise for eternity.  

If you would like to make that choice today, pray this prayer and believe it in your heart.

"Lord, come in and take control of my life.  I surrender to You.  I recognize that You are the true Lord of all and You deserve my full allegiance.  I want to give my allegiance to you from this day forward.  Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  Wash me clean and give me a fresh start so that I can live for You from this day forward, with the help of Your Holy Spirit.  I know that Jesus is Your precious Son who died on the cross for my sins.  I trust Him to forgive me.  Thank you for giving me eternal Christ, for His names sake.  Now, let me live all my days as Your precious child. Amen."



[iii] Genesis 6:5-13

[iv] Genesis 12:3

[v] Exodus 3:10

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Names of God - Advocate

So far, we’ve covered quite a few names for God in the Bible.  I hope this series has helped you know God better—not just know about Him, but actually know Him.  It is never enough to know about Him.  God wants you to know Him, personally.  It is one thing for you to know about a person; we know about many people.  But when you know a person, it’s like you have dinner with them and sit around the living room talking about their life until late in the night.  You tell them all about your life and they tell you about there’s.  Even more than that, you really get to know a person when they come rescue you when your car breaks down, or when you are sick in the hospital and they take your children to school for you while you’re having surgery.  When you live life with someone—when they are at your wedding and the birth of your child and in the good times and the bad times and everything in between, then you really know them.  And this is the kind of relationship God wants with us all.  He knows us and He wants us to know Him.  And the names for God, which He reveals in Scripture, show us different ways He is there with us and who He is to us.  And I hope this series has helped you see some of the ways God is there.

Our name for God today is Advocate.

John 14:15-17a
“If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

1 John 2:1
1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

Who would you call to help you if you were in really big trouble?  Imagine something terrible happens.  I mean, suppose you are driving through the Kroger parking lot and a 4-year-old kid dashes out in front of your car before you even have a chance to react.  And you hear that awful sound—kadunk…  You immediately stop and get out of the car and see the horrible sight of a mangled child.  It wasn’t your fault.  You had no chance to stop.  There was nothing you could do, but none of that matters to the crowd gathering around.  You mind is swirling and the mother is screaming.  The crowd is angy.  All they see is broken child, a devastated mother, and you and your car.  Someone yells “He was probably texting and driving!”  You weren’t. Your phone was in your pocket, but it doesn’t matter.  The mob wants someone to blame for this senseless tragedy.  They blame you.  The police arrive.  They take you to jail…  Who would you call?  Who would be on your side and fight for you no matter what?

I hope you never get in a situation like that.  But if you do, you will need friends who love you unconditionally.  You will need a good lawyer who will fight for you.

I say all this because it steers our thinking towards one of God’s most beautiful names—Advocate.  In John 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  The Greek word for Advocate is Paraclete.  It literally means, “Called to one’s side.” 

In the ancient world, a paraclete (advocate) was the person you would call to defend you before a judge. They would plead your case and fight for you with every means possible.  In our day, you would hire the best lawyer you can afford.  We have seen in our time the difference between having a high paid lawyer as opposed to a public defender (that the court appoints for those who can’t afford a lawyer). 

Public defenders are notorious for providing bad defense.  It’s not necessarily that they are bad lawyers.  It’s just they are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.  You are just another name on a long list of clients they have to defend.  On the other hand, we have seen how a really rich person might hire a brilliant lawyer who’s only job is to defend their one high-paying client, and they do it so well their client might even get away with murder.  Having the right advocate can make all the difference.

And Jesus says, “I will ask my Father (God) and He will give you an Advocate.”  The God of the Universe gives us an Advocate.  The Advocate is the Third Person of the Trinity—God the Holy Spirit.
When we decide to follow Jesus as our Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts.  He is there fighting for you, encouraging you, defending you, advising you, guiding you every step of the way.  Isn't it good to know that even if the whole world is against you, God the Holy Spirit is on your side?

Prevenient Grace
The Holy Spirit was there fighting for you before you even know He was there.  We celebrate the prevenient grace of God whenever we baptize and infant.  Sometimes people think the practice of infant baptism is peculiar.  They wonder why we would baptize a person before they can consciously understand what Jesus has done for them.  One reason we do infant baptism is specifically because represents how the Holy Spirit is working on our behalf before we even know or understand.  Parents present their child to God for baptism and ask the Holy Spirit to pour grace into the child and the parents and the church to help raise the child until they are old enough to accept Christ for themself and complete the baptism at confirmation.  Then they will recognize all that God has done for them through so many people and in so many ways.

All of my children were baptized as infants.  They will never know all the people who prayed for them, helped them, babysat them, and blessed them through the years.  All these people were instruments of the Holy Spirit to help them and give them every possible chance to grow up know CHrist and His love so that they were able to accept Jesus for themselves when they were old enough to understand what it means to be a Christian.

But suppose you were an orphan and didn't have a family or a church showing you the Holy Spirit's grace all through your childhood.  I want you to know that when no one else is there for you, God is the for you personally.  Deuteronomy 10:18 says, "[God] ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing."  Psalm 10:14 says, "The helpless put their trust in [God]. You defend the orphans."

When you are helpless and you have no one fighting for you, God is fighting for you personally as the Holy Spirit--opening doors, providing for needs, bringing people into your life to help.  God makes this happen, because God has a deep compassionate heart for the least, the last, the forgotten, and the lost. Read the stories of the Scripture and you will see Him there time and time again for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the leper, the lame, and the social outcast.

The Holy Spirit is there fighting for us to bring us to know God—even before we are thinking of God.

Justifying Grace
And then one day, we realize all that God has done for us, even though we haven’t been living for Him.  We see how Jesus died on the cross to save us from our own selfishness and when we cry out, “Lord, forgive me!  I want to start following You know. Come, take control of my life!”  

In the moment, the Devil is there prosecuting you before God.  The Devil lays out all the charges against you about all the ways you’ve sinned and hurt people and turned your back on God.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit steps in on your behalf and defends/justifies you.  This is called the justifying grace of God.  The Holy Spirit says, “All these sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ shed on the cross.”

However, the Devil is relentless.  He doesn't give up.  The Devil says, “Yes! But she’s not going to be true.  She’s a sinful human!  She will say she’s gonna follow you today, but tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, she will sin again!”

So, the Holy Spirit says, “ALL of her sins are paid in full—her sins from the past; her sins today; and every sin she might do in the future.  ALL her sins are swallowed up by Christ’s death on the cross.  They are atoned.  They are forgiven.  They are washed away by the blood fo Christ, forever!”

Then God will look at you and pronounce: “You is innocent.  I see no sin in you.  I see only Christ in you.  You are completely justified, forever!"

Sanctifying Grace
It doesn't stop there.  Now, the new Christian has to rebuild their life as a new creation patterned after Jesus their Lord.  God has proclaimed them innocent, but now they have to live a new way—for the old has passed and the new has begin.  How will a person know how to live as a Christian?  Howe will they actually do it if they know how?  Jesus was there showing his 12 disciples and helping them every day.  Who is walking with us today showing us how to live?

Jesus told His disciples how this would work.  In John 14:26, He said, “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” 

So this is another function of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate.  The Holy Spirit shows us how to live for God and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live holy lives.  If we listen with sensitive spiritual ears, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us and show us what to do, how to live, which way to go.  Our Advocate not only helps us understand what the Bible says, He also empowers us to live it out in every day life, in every situation.  The Advocate is Wisdom that knows the right thing to do, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons.  If you will respond to the Holy Spirit's guidance, you will live the way God wants you to and you will be more like Christ and you will bring glory to God thorugh the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s Time to Follow Jesus
And so today, I offer you a chance to make a choice to become a follower of Christ—a true Christian.  I want you to realize the God was there with you—in the Holy Spirit—the whole time. Even if you couldn’t see Him.  Even if there was no one to tell you about Him or show Him to you, He was there opening doors, guiding your steps, using your decisions and the people in your life and every  circumstance (both good and bad) to lead you to know Him and His love.  Now, it is time to trust Him, to proclaim Jesus the Lord of your life.  It is time to choose to follow Christ.

If you would like to become a Christian today, I invite you to pray this prayer:

"Lord, come in and take control of my life.  I surrender to You.  I recognize that You are the true Lord of all and You deserve my full allegiance.  I want to give my allegiance to you from this day forward.  Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  Wash me clean and give me a fresh start so that I can live for You from this day forward, with the help of Your Holy Spirit.  I know that Jesus is Your precious Son who died on the cross for my sins.  I trust Him to forgive me.  Thank you for giving me eternal Christ, for His names sake.  Now, let me live all my days as Your precious child. Amen."

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Names of God - Adonai

John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement and is credited as one of England’s greatest spiritual leaders.  John was a godly man who spent his life serving and making the world a much better place.  Many churches are named after this great spiritual leader.  Kelly and I were married in a church called Wesley United Methodist.  We are sitting here today in Pleasant Grove Methodist Church because of John Wesley's influence on the world.

Many people have named their children after John Wesley.  One family that followed this custom was
James and Mary Hardin.  James was a Methodist minister in Texas who named his son after the founder of the Methodist movement.  Unfortunately, their son, John Wesley Hardin, didn’t live up to his name sakes reputation for Christian love and charity.  John Wesley Hardin became a notorious murderer who killed his first victim when he was only 15 years old.  John Wesley Hardin murdered 21 men during his treacherous life.  Yet despite this, people still name their children “John” or “Wesley”, and even “John Wesley”.

We have been studying the names of God to learn about His character.  Today we come to a name that may seem natural for some but may trigger very negative feelings in others.  One might be tempted to discard the name altogether, base merely on the negative connotation associated with it.  However, we must not blame God for the sinful actions of people--anymore than we should blame John Wesley for John Wesley Hardin's evil actions..

The name of God we study today is Adonai.  The Hebrew word Adonai may not seem controversial until we learn the English translation.  Adonai means Master.

Master was a common word used in the ancient world.  Both paid servants and unpaid slaves referred to their lord as master.  In fact, calling someone master was a polite way for anyone to show humility and respect to someone of higher rank.  A student called their teacher master—a tradition carried on today in some schools where the principle is called the headmaster.

Unfortunately, what comes to mind for many Americans when we hear the term “Master” is the terrible era of slavery in our country where people bought and sold other human beings as if they were only animals.  The term master may bring to mind the terrible way slave master's treated their slaves in this country.  however, this is not at all what we mean when we call God Adonai/Master. 

God is not like sinful people any more than John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) is like the murderer John Wesley Hardin.  In fact, it is precisely because God is our True Master that the world finally concluded slavery is evil.  Christian abolitionists diligently argued and convinced the world that it is not right that one human being should own another human being.  Their Christian belief that slavery is evil was based largely on their Christian belief that God is already our true master and a man cannot serve two masters (as Jesus said in Matthew 6:24).  Many scholars and historians (including non-Christians) argue that slavery could not and would not have been abolished without Christianity. 

Isaiah 61:1a
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.

There are two things about this passage so far.  First, you may recognize this as the words Jesus used in Luke chapter 4.  You are absolutely right. Jesus once visited a worship service in his own hometown of Nazareth.  He was invited to read the Scripture and preach.  Jesus read this very passage from Isaiah 61.  Then he preached a sermon saying, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”  His sermon made his hometown so furious they tried to throw him off a cliff!  (I hope my message today doesn’t have the same effect!)

Second, notice where is says Sovereign Lord (I’ve highlighted it for you in the passage above).  This is the English translation of the Hebrew Yahweh Adonai.  Yahweh is God’s holy name.  It means something like "I am who I am and you can’t control me." Adonai means master.

What has this uncontrollable sovereign master done?  He has anointed or chosen Jesus for a special purpose: to bring good news to the poor.  Going on there’s more…

Isaiah 61:1b
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.

Are you brokenhearted?  Are you trapped by someone or something?  Are you imprisoned—literally or figuratively?  The Master has Good News for you.

These words of Isaiah were written over 500 years before Christ was born. Originally, they were intended to comfort and console the Israelites who, because of their sin, had been dragged away as captives to Babylon when Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians.  Those captives longed for a Messiah who would save them.  Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, came preaching these words and giving them new meaning.  We are all in need of a Savior chosen to comfort our broken hearts and set us free from captivity.  And Jesus goes on sharing His beautiful purpose for being born on earth as God’s Messiah:

Isaiah 61:2-3
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Do You Want A Master?
Jesus came preaching this Good News, but not everyone wanted to hear it.  Some thought He did not have the right to speak these words.  He was just the son of a carpenter.  Others wanted to cling to their power and position.  They didn’t want the world to change—even if it was changing for the better—because it might threaten the life they’d eked out at the expense of others.

Do you want God to be your master?  That’s a question we all need to honestly think about.  It goes to the very heart of the human condition of sin and rebellion.  Most of us do not want anyone to be our master—not even God.  We prefer names for God like Savior, Redeemer, and Father.  But Master?  Not so much.

It is interesting that in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Master over 700 times.[i]  Jesus is only referred to as Savior 26 times[ii] (the specific original Greek word for “Savior” is actually only used once, by the Samaritans in John 4:42[iii]).  Master takes precedence over savior in the New Testament.

We want someone to save us.  We don’t want someone to master us.

We are far too much like the younger son in Jesus’ famous parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-31).  Like that rebellious younger son in His story, we chaff against the restraints of God on our life.   Who is God that He should tell us how we should live—what we can and can’t do with our own life?  Are we not free people?  Can we not live however we please (so long as we aren’t hurting anyone else)?  It is precisely this attitude that leads so many people to a place where they need someone to save them.  The prodigal son in Jesus' story took all his money and went away to a foregn land to live however he pleased.  He spent all his money on wild living.  When it was all gone, he was destitute and forced to work for a pig farmer.  He was starving to death and it was so bad he wished he could eat the slop he was feeding the pigs.  That's what "living however we please" often leads to.  Look at some of the results of people living however they please in America today.  It often leads to financial debt. The average credit card debt in America is $6,000[iv]; the average household debt is $90,000[v].  The total national debt is $28 trillion and is projected to rise to $89 Trillion by the end of the decade[vi].  Living however we please can often lead to poverty, substance abuse, depression, heartache, and even suicide.  Ultimately, it leads us to hell. When you won’t let God be your master, by default you invite someone or something else to be your master--and these other things are never kind masters who have your best interest at heart.  They will use you up and discard you.

Even good people who work hard, live wisely, and do the right thing are in trouble if they refuse to let God be their master.  This is an even more dangerous road to take.  For the “good” people of our planet often become self-righteous and say, “I have earned the right to be my own master.  I have my life together.  I deserve the rewards of my good living.  I’m not like those lazy, undisciplined, self-indulgent people. I work hard for everything I’ve got.  I don’t owe anyone anything.”  People who think like this are the blindest people of all because they think the God who created them owes them.  They cannot see God has already given them more than they deserve, and they owe Him everything.

I pray that everyone would come to have the attitude where they can come to God and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”

An interesting thing happens when we ask God to be our Master.  Instead of treating us as slaves, or even servants, the Master--Adonai--treats us as beloved sons and daughters.  Some of the ways the Bible portrays this is that God heals all our hurts and fills us with His Holy Spirit.  God gives us royal robe and honors us with a heavenly feast.  God makes us co-heirs with His son Jesus.  God blesses us with eternal life where their will be no more sin or sickness or suffering.

Jesus showed us the Master’s attitude most vividly in one of his final acts of love for his disciples before he was arrested and crucified.  Jesus, the Master, who was with God in the beginning when the world was created and who is God, knelt down like a slave and washed His disciples feet.  And he said, whoever among you wants to be the greatest must become the least.  And he told them (and us) go and do likewise.







Monday, August 9, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Shammah

Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.  God’s names reveal His character and help us to know Him.  Today, I want to consider the name Yahweh-Shammah, which means the Lord is there. We will see it is a name for God and also for a great city that Christians hope to inhabit one day.

Ezekiel was a prophet of Israel that lived in captivity in the time of the Babylonian Empire. Babylonia conquered Jerusalem and set up a puppet government that promised to be loyal to Babylonia. Then, Babylonia took several important people captive as hostages back to Babylonia. Ezekiel was among the captives. A few years later, Jerusalem rebelled and Babylonia returned to reconquer and destroy the city. When Ezekiel and the Israelite captives in Babylon heard the news of Jerusalem's destruction, they were devastated. But God gave them a vision through Ezekiel. God said Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed because of Israel's sin of idolatry. However, God was going to one day build a new eternal city and temple and Israel's heritage and way of life will be built into the very walls of the city.

Ezekiel 48:30-35
“These will be the exits to the city: On the north wall, which is 1 1⁄2 miles long, 31 there will be three gates, each one named after a tribe of Israel. The first will be named for Reuben, the second for Judah, and the third for Levi. 32 On the east wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. 33 The south wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, will have gates named for Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun. 34 And on the west wall, also 1 1⁄2 miles long, the gates will be named for Gad, Asher, and Naphtali.

35 “The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’”

Slide – Yahweh-Shammah
The New Living Translation translates the Hebrew Name for God and the eternal city as "The Lord Is There".  The original Hebrew word was Yahweh-Shammah.  Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am".  Usually, this is translated into English as LORD with all capital letter to indicate the original word was Yahweh.  Lord is decent translation; it captures something of the original meaning.  A lord is sovereign.  You can't tell a lord what to do; the lord tells you what to do.  God (Yahweh) is Lord of all.  He is sovereign over everything.  He is who He is.  We can't control or manipulate Him.

Shammah means There.  Ezekiel 48:35 is the only time Shammah is used in the entire Bible.  

Yahweh-Shammah is the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of Ezekiel.  The Prophet ends his vision of God’s restoration of the broken dreams of God’s people with this hope:  “Something new is coming.  I know our homes have been destroyed.  Our culture is demolished.  Our city and temple are gone and we are prisoners in a foreign land.  But One Day the Lord will build a new city and it’s eternal name will be “The Lord is There.”

Do you know the Lord is there?
Do you know the Lord is there?  Some people struggle to know the Lord is there.  Thy think of God as an old man in the sky, or a distant deity, or some ethereal energy or spiritual force.  However, the Bible repeatedly tells stories that reveal God is real, tangible, and personable. 

God spoke to the prophets.  God was a friend to Abraham. Genesis says God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden during the cool of the day.

If that weren’t enough, God took the form of a man and came down to earth.  He was born as a baby named Jesus.  We read how Jesus was dedicated at the Temple.  Luke tells us about a time when Jesus got separated from his parents during a trip when he was 12.  The Gospels tell so many amazing stories about Jesus’ miracles and teachings, but it is also clear that, in Jesus, God is a man with flesh and blood who gets thirsty and hungry and who, in the end, even bleeds and dies.

So God is real and He is there.  God is not something vague or far off or impersonal. He is there.

God is there when a baby is born and a new life comes into the world.
God it there with the mother as she struggles through the pain of childbirth.
God is there with the father who can't do anything but watch and pray as the woman he loves gives birth.
God is there when your kids go back to school in uncertain times and with the teachers trying to educate them and keep them safe.
God is there when a young couple gets married or when a person struggles to remain single.
God is there when you start a new job—with the uncertainties and the hopes for the future.
God is there when you lose a child and you feel like your heart is utterly broken and you don't knwo how you can go on.
God is there when someone betrays you or when you are the betrayer.
God is there loving you even when you are being disciplined.  He was with the Israelites consoling and encouraging them with a new vision--even as they learned their homeland had been destroyed.
God is there when we celebrate, when we laugh, when we cry, when we live, and when we die.

Ezekiel and his people were devastated when the temple was destroyed.  For them in their time, the temple was where God lived.  The temple gave the people access to God’s presence.  The temple’s destruction meant they no longer had a place to be in God’s presence.  However, Ezekiel shared a vision for a new city called, Yahweh-Shammah, “The Lord Is There”.

Jesus came to start building that city in our hearts.  Do you remember how Jesus once told the religious leaders, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19).  The people thought he was crazy.  It had taken them 46 years to build the Temple.  However, Jesus wasn’t talking about a physical temple.  Jesus was talking about His body, which the Bible says was crucified and buried in a tomb and rose back to life on the third day.

This is part of a New Covenant God made with people.  If you repent of your sins and turn to God as your Lord, He forgives your sins and He is there for you.  In fact, His Holy Spirit lives in your heart!

You don’t have to travel to Jerusalem and seek God’s presence in some ancient temple.  God is right here, right now.  1 Peter 2:4-5a says, “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.

When Christians gather together, we form a spiritual temple where God is present.  Isn’t that amazing!  Remember how the presence of God filled the two holy places in the Old Testament.  First, there was the Tabernacle in Exodus.  As the Israelites were living in tents traveling from Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land, God also lived in a tent called the Tabernacle.  It was the Israelites first Holy Place to worship in the presence of God.  The presence of God was revealed through a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Later, when the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, King Solomon built the first temple and dedicated it to the Lord as the holy place where people worshiped in the presence of the Lord.  And the Lord revealed His glorious presence to the people through a great cloud of smoke that filled the temple.  Then we fast forward to the New Testament, to the book of Acts in the second chapter.  Jesus' disciples are gathered together in an upper room and the sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the place as the Holy Spirit filled the believers and it was as if tongues of fire were dancing above each disciple's head.  It was just like in the Old Testament stories, except this time the presence of God did not inhabit a building; God filled people who believed in Jesus!  Christians are no the temple of God!

What’s more, Ephesians tell us the church is the body of Christ.  When we put our faith in Jesus, we are His body and His temple and the Lord is there.

A Future Hope
We still long for a day when all that is wrong with the world will be made right.  That Day is coming.  It is closer today than it was yesterday.  Jesus promised He would return One Day to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the weeds--His faithful from the unfaithful.  That Day is coming and no one knows the day or the hour, so we have to always be ready.

One Day, God will make a New Heaven and a New Earth where everything is the way it was meant to be.  In that day, we will live together in the City of God on Earth.  Picking up on the vision God revealed to Ezekiel, the Revelation of John describes the New City named “God is There.”

Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Holy Communion
Whenever we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, it reminds us o
f what Jesus did to reconcile us to God.  It also reminds us of His presence with us now.  Finally, it reminds us of our role to be the Body of Christ in this broken world until He returns.